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László Beke once said: ‘we can consider conceptual art as anti-painterly, or, anti-traditionalist art. For this reason, everyone, especially painters with a good perspective, had to decide for their own how to handle this. [...] The same problem occurred again at the beginning of the 80s when the same artists, who had become conceptual, had to decide whether to begin to paint again. [...] This can be described as the great conflict between traditional and conceptual art in general.’ This conflict that I would call La querelle des conceptuels et des traditionnels is presented in this paper through the work of the Hungarian artist Gyula Konkoly and his twofold, controversial relation to the tradition of painting and to conceptual thinking. Konkoly, a classically-trained painter, who is mainly known as a pop art artist and as one of the earliest protagonists of object art in Hungary, with his Manifesto from 1971/72, ceased every kind of ‘grand art’ activity for almost two decades, until the end of the Eighties, when he returned to painting.

In most of his works from the Sixties, it was the episteme of painting that he was dealing with. On the one hand, he quoted the great masters of art history in many of his paintings, using their works in a pop art context, pairing them with abstract, hardedge surfaces. On the other hand, as a skilled painter he inserted resin imprints of his own hand on the canvases that represented the notion of craftsmanship and also the idea of the ready-made. It was the motif of the skilled hand of the artist that had to be destroyed when he got involved in conceptual art and in anti-art activities. At the first Iparterv exhibition he presented his seminal work Cage: An Academic Study (1968). In an unrealized project for a solo exhibition it was also the artist’s hand that he planned to bury. By the deconstruction of the artist’s personality and by the symbolic destruction of the artist’s hand, the symbol of the mastery of his métier, Konkoly came to the conclusion that this process, the total dematerialization of art and art object has reached its end making every kind of artistic activity pointless.

The great paradigm shift of conceptual art thus led in Konkoly’s career also to a major turning point, to an almost two-decade long pause in his work. When returning to painting at the end of the Eighties, it was again, through his skilled artist’s hand with which he resumed his meditation on medium and métier, on colours and forms, and on the episteme of painting in general. Thus the thesis of this paper is that Konkoly’s work may be seen as a continuous and – almost – lifelong meditation on painting, on its basic structures, its relationship to its tradition and to the reality it expresses, and its epistemological value when compared with other, more abstract and philosophical, conceptual modes of art making.

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Institutional collecting versus ‘live art’

The acquisition policy of the Moravian Gallery in Brno against the backdrop of contemporary art and other activities of the Sixties in Brno

Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author: Petr Ingerle

This paper focuses on the relation between the acquisition activity of the Moravian Gallery in Brno (officially founded in 1961) and the then current artistic production in the region (especially the program of the Brno House of Arts). While the collection of modern art — that originated before the official foundation of the gallery — was built in correlation with the current interwar exhibition activities of various art associations, in the 1960s the Gallery’s acquisition policy becomes selective. The reasons may be found in the diversification of modernity — personal preferences — political pressures — censorship — and/or the inability of the institution to deal with dematerialized art and newly emerging art forms. The text examines the position of the progressive trends of neo-avant-garde and conceptual art within the professional (institutionalized) art scene through specific examples of work, from the perspective of a significant Czech institution. Specifically, the essay deals with the works of art by Milan Grygar, Miroslav Sonny Halas and an informal group called ‘The Brno Bohemians.’ It also contains a brief excursus on a possible analogy between the authors of graphic scores in the Sixties and Seventies and the visuality of records and scores of Leoš Janáček, one of the most significant composers of the avant-garde.

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The text deals with the work of Jana Želibská (1941 Olomouc) — flanêuse in the 1960s and the priestess of the Great Mother (Nature) in the 1970s. Želibská took a central position among male protagonists of neo-avant-garde in Slovakia. Her approach has been labeled ‘latent feminism’ because no real feminist platform existed during socialism in Slovakia. Želibská used the language of pop art and New Realism and their iconography mixed with the local folklore motifs in a quite different way. Pop art and New Realism entered the oeuvre of many artists simultaneously with experiments in conceptual art (Stano Filko, Peter Bartoš, Július Koller, Jana Želibská). After 1968, Želibská shifted the focus of her activities to land as an open structure outside of official supervision. Želibská made several statements regarding experiencing the magic of the present moment and experience with landscape through concepts and events that emphasized connection with nature. Photography helped her to work with continuity and causality in photo-sequences of situations and events. The path through ‘rooms of her own’ and other spatial concepts from the female labyrinth to the architecture of the temple in the 1960s, through changing open structures outdoors in her concept and land art in the 1970s, photography in 1980s, reached installation and video in the 1990s. Installations in the 1980s were built mainly on the artist’s experience with and in nature, or on the typical postmodernist contrast of the urban and natural. Puberty and virginity, which interested her in the land art events in 1970s, appeared again in her video art in a monumental demonstration of ‘girl power.’ In 1997 Želibská took the position behind the camera, shooting a naked male body without identity and face in the video installation Her View of Him. Thus she completed her shift from the ‘girl power’ of the 1960s and early 1970s agenda to fully articulated ‘woman power’.

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The paper investigates one of the most complex cases of visualizing leftist ideology from a critical, but nevertheless definitely leftist point of view within the Eastern Bloc — the case of László Lakner. Whatever way Lakner’s art can be related to several neo-avant-garde artistic strategies that ironically appropriate leftist symbols, in Lakner’s work, signs and symbols of communist ideology seem to be more than mere appropriated elements of a criticized visual and ideological system. Lakner was consistently looking for a system-critical, but leftist standpoint from the middle of the 1960s until his emigration in 1974. In this paper some examples of Lakner’s activity from this period are presented and the paper explores how he evoked documents and central figures of leftist movements, and how he used the iconography of socialist painting in a very peculiar way. The question whether some of his artistic strategies could be related to Marxist philosophy is also considered. The title of the paper refers to a conceptual drawing of the same title by Lakner that can be seen and read as an ambiguous tribute to Karl Marx.

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1400 into 2011

Remarks of a Hungarian art historian

Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author: Professor László Beke


The essay is a subjective overlook of Hungarian artistic culture from the point of view of an art historian who had an active role in Hungarian avant-garde scene both as a theoretician and as a curator as well. His essay is focused on hyperrealistic trends and their practices of rendering lively figures, perspectivic effects and the use of casts as well.

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This paper examines the cross-pollination of the neo-Marxist critique of real existing socialism with the critical practices of the radical stream of the East European neo-avant-garde, and examines the extent to which the imprint of debates over the radical overhaul of the socialist system can be detected in the practices of artists and curators. Artistic affinities with the neo-Marxist debates that flared across the Eastern Bloc can be identified in a shared willingness to question authority, a subversive attitude to canonical thinking and a new interest in the role of an individual in socialist society. Considered also is the shift over the course of the 1970s from a belief in the possibility of a reformed socialism, to one of resignation, cynicism and frustration towards party bureaucracy, in which even the bureaucrats had stopped believing in the official ideology. This change in attitudes towards socialism is detected both in the change in tone in the writings of dissident theorists and in the approach of artists who could no longer muster the neo-avant-garde enthusiasm for the utopian desire to transform the world. The difficult paths taken by those, who sought to recover the radicalism in Marxist thought from under the blanket of state bureaucracy may also be viewed as a valuable source for contemporary social criticism of the post-communist order by a new generation of theorists and artists.

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kilencvenes években (Neo-Conceptual art in Hungary in the nineties) , (Praesens), Budapest 2005.; András, Edit: “Transgressing boundaries (even those marked out by the predessesors) in new genre conceptual art.” In Art after conceptual art . Ed.: Alberro

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